It's Better for Brown This Time
By Mike Bresnahan
Times Staff Writer
October 8, 2006
Kwame Brown smiles.
"Yes," he says after exhaling, he is definitely feeling more relaxed these days.
He was trying to do everything in a hurry a year ago, moving at a painfully blurry speed whenever the ball came his way in the post. If he actually managed to secure the ball instead of fumbling it — a 50-50 proposition at times — he would begin his post moves awkwardly and rapidly, often ending with an off-balance shot.
He has now been handed the title of the Lakers' starting center, one he hopes not to drop. He says he has changed, calling the difference from a year ago "like night and day."
"Just not thinking as much, not as anxious," he said. "You can't do nothing without the rock. I'm just basically trying to slow down. I'm not as wide-eyed as I was last year."
Brown would have been an important key to a successful season before it became apparent Chris Mihm would not be ready for the start of training camp. Now, many eyes will be on Brown, who delivered in Mihm's absence toward the end of last season and will be expected to do so even more this season.
Brown averaged 13.6 points and 9.2 rebounds in the team's final 13 regular-season games, following it up with a slightly less exemplary 12.9-point, 6.6-rebound average in the playoffs.
A day after last season ended, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak challenged Brown by saying, "My understanding is that he has not put as much time into his game during the off-season as he should."
So Brown became a fairly frequent visitor to the team training facility, although he wished he could have done more.
"I understand that he wanted to see us in here, but there were no guys in there playing," Brown said. "That's the one thing I wish that we could change. If you want us to be here, try and get some games going because there's not a lot of games going here. You can work out, you can do all the shots and skill work, and you're still behind the eight-ball because there's no playing."
Now in his sixth season, Brown can't afford to fall behind if he is going to be a meaningful post presence for an entire season.
"You can tell that he's much more relaxed out there," Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis said. "He has a better understanding of what we want to do. We just need him to keep growing as a ball player. Part of his job is to make sure that he controls the lane for us — defends, rebounds — and starts expanding his offense."
As for his hands?
"He's doing a good job of catching the ball," Rambis said. "To be honest with you, I don't think that I've noticed him dropping the ball in training camp, which is good, considering that most of this is a hack-fest out there. You've got grabbing and holding and they're smacking and slapping."
Guard Aaron McKie practiced Saturday after sitting out part of Friday's practice because of a sore back.